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BeshalachIn this week's parashah, we learn how Hashem fed us Manna in the desert for forty years. "Moshe said, 'This is the thing that Hashem has commanded - A full omer of it [the Manna] shall be a safekeeping for your generations, so that they will see the food with which I fed you in the Wilderness when I took you out of Egypt'" (Shemos 16:32). Rashi quotes the words of the Sages who explain that when the prophet Yirmiyahu rebuked the Jews of his generation for not learning Torah they argued, "Shall we leave our work and engage ourselves with the Torah? From where shall we earn a living?" He then said to them "O, Generation, see the Word of Hashem" (Yirmiyahu 2:31). He did not say "Hear the Word" but "See the Word." This is because he actually brought out to them the cruse of Manna and showed it to them saying, "See what your fathers were fed with. The Almighty has many messengers to provide food for those who fear Him."
A basic foundation of Judaism is that one's sustenance is from Hashem. If a person thinks that he alone provides for himself, he will find it very difficult to spare precious time for Torah learning and observance for he will argue that "time is money.' However, if he realizes that Hashem decrees his earnings on Rosh Hashanah, and that that very decree depends specifically upon his level of adherence to the Torah, then he will have a totally different perspective. He will realize that "time is Olam Haba (the World-to-Come)" and that every moment spent properly will insure him a comfortable existence in this world and the next.
One summer morning, decades ago, I drove to the Catskill Mountains to recruit students. For some reason, I had very little money with me; only a few coins. When I arrived at the Livingston Manor bakery, the smell of all the fresh dough being prepared for the day teased at my senses and I felt faint. Although I was famished, I only had enough to buy two freshly baked rolls. The chassidishe young man who ran the bakery must have noticed that I was pale and asked me what was wrong. I explained that I was very hungry but didn't have enough to buy even a half-decent breakfast. He immediately invited me up to his apartment and instructed his wife to prepare a meal for me.
His wife was apparently into hachnasas orchim (being hospitable to guests) as much as he was and, rather than feel bothered and upset at the unexpected early morning visitor, she actually seemed quite happy at the opportunity to fulfill this great mitzvah. She quickly placed before me a container of orange juice, some butter and hard cheese for the rolls I had brought with me and some eggs. Although I felt a bit embarrassed, my poor physical condition didn't allow me to think about my pride. I ate everything she gave me and thanked her profusely for her kindness.
When I left the building through a side door, I noticed the young couple's uncle, who actually owned the bakery compound. He was an elderly chassid who was sitting on the porch, reciting Tehillim fervently. I interrupted him for a moment and commented, "Reb Yid. If you serve butter, cheese, juice and eggs to everyone who buys a roll from you, you are not going to be able to make much parnasah (livelihood)!"
The kind, truly religious and devout old man looked up from his holy book for a few seconds and responded with a big smile, "zeit gezunt. Ersht fin deim kimpt di parnusah - Be well. As a matter of fact, one's livelihood comes specifically from that!"
Shema Yisrael Torah Network